GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok (Riverhead Books, 2010)
As a compelling, at times shocking, account of a young immigrant’s life in America this book has many merits. As a convincing work of narrative fiction it leaves a lot to be desired.
The episodic nature of the novel is problematic in that the story has a disjointed quality. As the author jumps from one event to the next, the reader is left with more questions than answers.
In the opening chapter we learn that the mother of the first person narrator, Kimberley Chang, had suffered from tuberculosis in China but her state of health is something which is barely mentioned therafter.
Later on, at the age of 18, when it is clear that Kimberley (Kim) needs to obtain U.S. citizenship, she applies and studies hard for naturalization but we are never told how the actual test went. The cumulative effect of these gaps is disorientating and infuriating. Continue reading
A Hawk & A Hacksaw – husband and wife duo Heather Trost & Jeremy Barnes performing at the Bronson club, Ravenna as part of the Transmissions Festival they curated.
Father Murphy, A Hawk & A Hacksaw, Mouse On Mars at the Bronson Club, Ravenna.
The juxstaposition of styles presented during this concert showed how sonic transmissions in our technically challenging (and challenged!) age can be by turns nostalgic, alienating and invigorating.
In Keywords (A vocabulary of culture and society) Marxist academic Raymond Williams wrote that, in the 18th century, the verb ‘to modernize’ was mainly applied to buildings and was not automatically regarded as something positive. Nowadays, modernization is generally associated with improvement and forward thinking. Williams noted that when we say modern now we generally refer to something which is “unquestionably favourable and desirable”. It signifies that you are up with the times and at one with the contemporary world.
Compare this to words like ‘tradition’ or ‘traditionalist’ which are commonly used to dismiss something as quaint yet old-fashioned and contrary to notions of innovation or change. We associate these terms with the work of artisans and craftsmen and think of outdated skills handed down from generation to generation.
When applied to music, ‘tradition’ is usually linked to an analog philosophy while to describe sounds as ‘modern’ is to say the artist is making a break with the past. However, an incessantly forward momentum has its pitfalls. The fact that discerning listeners will still seek out vinyl releases or lossless audio is a sign that the ‘modern’ day digital revolution is regarded in some quarters as a step backwards.
On the third and final day of Ravenna’s Transmissions festival the stark contrast between the old and the new was very evident. After being gently wooed by the Balkan-influenced folky charm of A Hawk And A Hacksaw (+ special guests) we were abruptly wowed by the uncompromising techno beats of German duo Mouse On Mars. Continue reading
FEED by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press, 2002)
Ever get the feeling that you are just part of the machinery?
Do you have the sensation that information is accessing you NOT vice versa?
If you cannot categorically answer a defiant NO to either of these questions then maybe Feed is the novel for you.
The publishers also think that you need to be a ‘Young Adult’ , or at least a mature teenager, to be classified as one of its target audience but I’d say the arguments are applicable to all ages. Continue reading
The French are renowned for their zero tolerance towards borrowing words from other languages. Previously I have regarded this as an extremist position but I am beginning to think they have a point. Italians are not so up tight on this issue and the consequences are plain for all to see.
Many schools have ‘Open Days’ , numerous companies adopt tiresome variations of Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’ slogan and my local gym is peppered with motivational missives like ‘Never Give Up’ and ‘Impossible Is Nothing.
Using such phrases is presumably intended to show that corporate Italy takes an all-encompassing Anglo-American attitude to business, education and leisure pursuits.
Near where I live, the successful Technogym gym equipment company calls itself ‘The Wellness Company’™. Their ‘Technogym Village’ is a poncey name for their spanking new HQ which opened in 2013 and is located in what founder Nerio Alessandri has recently named ‘Wellness Valley’. His stated aim is to single-handedly create a sporty equivalent of Silicon Valley in the heart of Emilia-Romagna. Continue reading